Founding Fathers’ Flowers for Independence Day
How to Recreate an American Colonial Flower Design
by Kit Wertz
To help America celebrate its 235th birthday, why not make a flower arrangement that would be suitable in our founding fathers’ and mothers’ homes? The American colonists would have used flowers and grasses from their gardens and perhaps from the woods and fields around them.
About Colonial Flower Design
The design was a loose, but symmetrical, mass of flowers without any “structure.” The flower design would be a mix of flowers and grasses or just one type of flower with one type of filler. Floral design was not studied yet – that would come much later. Most colonists were busy just gardening to grow food to put on the table and would not have bothered too much with decorations. Think “homemade” flower design without too much thought to placement of color or texture.
American colonists would have combined all colors of roses, carnations, daisies, lilies, phlox, with native grasses. They also might have used Queen Anne’s Lace, geraniums, lilacs, hollyhocks, black-eyed Susans, peonies, marigolds, snapdragons, strawflowers, stock and sunflowers.
Filler flowers would have included baby’s breath, Solidago and Limonium (statice). Colonists would have also added grasses, tree branches and shrubs to designs. Dried flowers, berries, seeds, dried gourds, cattails, grains, alder and sumac would have been popular additions to colonial flower designs.
They had a lot of European influence in their styles of vases, but many folks just mixed flowers and grasses from their gardens into metal jugs, pots, glass jars and all kinds of water pitchers.
Colonists would have brought a few porcelain pieces from Europe for flower displays. One type of porcelain was Delftware vases and bowls. It’s a very delicate hand- painted blue-on-white porcelain product from Delft, Holland. Example pictured at left.
Another popular vase of the time was a fan shaped vase that had five slots to place in single stems of flowers. These were called Quintal horns and made it easy for the arranger to have a nice one-sided design. Check out this modern reproduction Quintal Horn Vase for sale in the UK.
So, grab a pretty ceramic water pitcher or your basic glass jar from the last time you made spaghetti. Go out to your garden in the early morning and cut some flowers, shrub branches and grasses and make a traditional colonial design to celebrate America being 235 years old!
Now to modern times and modern flowers. If you want to have a floral design the mimics the look of fireworks, what flowers do you use? Here are a few you can use to make a fun “firework” flower display for your July 4th cookout.
Allium (Onion Flower – pictured above) – This purple flower is a great globe shaped flower.
Agapanthus – Comes in white or blue – perfect for July 4th and is blooming right now in gardens all over!
Spider Mum – Long petals make this white or green mum a good choice to mimic bursts of fireworks.
Spray Carnation- Get some red or white into your design with this firecracker looking flower. All the blooms on different ends mimic the bursts of fireworks you see in clusters near the finale of every display.
Pincushion Protea – Comes in orange or yellow. This is just a fun flower all around!
Lantana – This round burst of miniature flowers looks like a burst of color in the air.
Queen Anne’s Lace – This white lacey flower mimics a large burst of a round firework in the night sky.
by Flower Duet Editors
We spend so much time talking about different flowers in floral design, that we forget the plethora of greenery and filler flowers that make up the sometimes very strong supporting cast in our designs. This is the first in a series of articles we’ll do that focuses on the ever important greenery.
Flower Design Trends
Flower Duet knows that the current trend in floral design today to show masses of flowers with very little, if any, greenery. This means that you have to spend more money on flowers to make a large design. If you use a little greenery strategically, you can still have a very modern design, but also save a few bucks. So, this article feature will show you some of our favorite types of greenery
and how to work with each one.
Greenery Type: Italian Ruscus
Expense Factor: $8-12 per bunch wholesale
Vase Life: 6-20 days – Harvested Ruscus stored at 40 degrees has been known to last up to five months!
Italian Ruscus is a small leafed, dark green greenery that we favor for wedding designs. Like most greenery grown for the floral trade, each long stem has many small stems of leaves.
As a whole stem, Ruscus works well in long centerpiece designs (think oval shapes). It also looks great in tall vase designs and on floral sprays.
Ruscus is a great accent for boutonnieres and corsages. This is our go-to greenery for these types of small detail work. The foliage is a glossy green that doesn’t clash with any type of flower. It lasts a long time out of water, too. To make this stretch, separate the little stems from the long stem as pictured.
Any leftover leaves can be stripped from the stems and made into little beds for a placecard table or to go around a wedding cake. They also make nice nests for presenting the grooms boutonniere if you want to give that special touch.
NOTE: There is another type of ruscus called Israeli Ruscus. It has much larger leaves, but shares many other similar bonus features as the Italian Ruscus.
flower Magazine summer issue on newsstands now.
Summer Tropical Flower Show at Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, IL – May 28 – September 25, 2011
2011 AIFD National Symposium in San Francisco, California – July 3-9, 2011
Mountains in Bloom in Highlands, North Carolina – July 7-10, 2011
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Flowers After Five in Richmond, Virginia – Thursdays in June, July, August 2011
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – Surrey, UK – July 5-10, 2011
How to plant Citrus and Tropical plants – Armstrong Garden Centers in California – Saturday, July 9, 2011
Contemporary Floral Design with Summer Flowers Classes – UC San Diego Extension – July 16 – August 20, 2011
West Seattle Garden Tour in Seattle, Washington – July 17, 2011
The Sun Valley Group – Wholesale Flower Grower 24th Annual Open House – Arcata, California – July 24, 2011
Sonoma County Fair Flower show – Sonoma, California – July 26, 2011
The 130th Sandringham Flower Show – Norfolk, UK – July 27, 2011
Flower Duet Flower Arranging Workshop – Working with cylinder vases: Tall and Short – July 31, 2011
New this year, Founding Gardeners covers the garden philosophy of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Adams. Learn about why Washington wanted only Virginia native plants at Mount Vernon and how Jefferson wanted to grow his own grapes to make the first Virgina wine. Find out why James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, is America’s forgotten enivronmentalist. You’ll learn all about the flora that was grown by our colonial ancestors and how they felt about this “new” land.
Flowers and Herbs of Early America by Lawrence Griffith , Barbara Temple Lombardi (Photographer)
Published by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Flowers and Herbs of Early America documents in beautiful detail with photographs, period hand-colored engraving, watercolor, or woodcuts the great variety of flowers and herbs grown in America’s colonial and early Federal gardens. Griffith, an historic plant expert, brings our botanical heritage to the page for a modern reader to enjoy. You can learn what was grown so you can recreate it in your own garden.
Once you’ve created your masterpiece flower design, it’s time to document your work with a few photos. This month’s floral tool is a digital camera. Here are some tips to get the best photo you can of your floral arrangements.
How to take Great Photos of Your Flower Designs
TIP 1: Get a digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera with a zoom lens. Try to get a camera that has a “flower” setting and a “no flash” setting as well as manual settings where you can set your own aperture and shutter speed. I use a Nikon D90, because I wanted the HD video capability, but you can go with something a little less expensive. Check out the reviews on CNET.com to compare different cameras. If you just use a point and shoot digital camera, you won’t be able to always control the mood and depth of field.
TIP 2: Try to shoot in natural light without a flash. When you use a flash, it often distorts the color of flowers, especially if they are orange, dark pink or red.
TIP 3: Pick a neutral background that is not busy. I like to use a smooth stucco wall in my backyard for many of my shots. A blank white, cream, light gray or light green wall in a brightly day lit room works well, too.
TIP 4: Try to shoot from different angles. Some designs look good from high above, some from straight one and some from down below.
TIP 5: Review and Zoom: Review each shot on the back of the camera after you shoot. Zoom in to make sure the photo is in sharp focus close up.
TIP 6: Review and Recompose: Review each shot on the back of the camera to make sure your arrangement actually looks good in the photo. It can be quite shocking to look at your arrangement on the camera and then all of the sudden, you see a big hole in your design!!!
TIP 7: Shoot some close-ups of just a few featured flowers. Close up shots of parts of your design are fun to have. Use the “flower” setting on the camera, but turn off the flash if you can. This creates a short depth of field, meaning that just some of the flowers will be in sharp focus and the rest of the design will be a little out of focus. This makes for a nice and romantic looking shot.
TIP 8: Shoot a lot of photos, you can delete them later.
TIP 9: Always do a little photoshop to the images you want to add to your final portfolio or to the images you are going to print. You might need to increase the exposure on some or use the repair tool to mask a bruised petal. I like to use iPhoto for my retouching, but Photoshop Elements is a good choice if you have a PC. It’s important with digital images to fix the color sometimes. It can look “cold” so it’s good to warm up the photo with a more natural hue. Take the time to learn a little about photo retouching by either checking out a book from the library or doing some tutorials online.
TIP 10: Keep shooting! The more you shoot, the better you’ll get at floral design and photography!
Check out more great tips on how to take photos of flowers.